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Bill would allow first responders to carry firearms


Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT, W.Va.  — The West Virginia Senate is considering a House bill that would allow non-police first responders, who receive training first, to carry firearms.

On March 20, the House passed HB 2916 by a 96-2 vote, with two delegates not voting.

The bill was introduced in the Senate on March 21 and then referred to the Judiciary Committee.

The lead sponsor of the bill is Delegate Dave Pethtel, D-Wetzel. Delegates Roger Hanshasw R-Clay, and Chad Lovejoy, D-Cabell, cosponsored the bill.

HB 2916 would allow supervising entities of deputy sheriff’s reserves, ambulance crews, firefighters, rescue squads and emergency service personnel to authorize their personnel to carry firearms.

The bill would require that any personnel authorized to carry firearms would only be allowed to do so after they have successfully completed a firearms training and certification program that is equivalent to what is required of members of the State Police.

The bill would also allow the supervising entities to reimburse personnel for the cost of training and maintenance.

Delegates Mike Caputo, D-Marion, Linda Longstreth, D-Marion and Guy Ward, R-Marion, all voted in favor of the bill.

One of the reasons that Ward voted for the bill is that it would require the first responders to take training before they would be allowed to have a firearm, he said.

There was an incident that happened involving the Boothsville Volunteer Fire Department. The department serves White Hall and other areas, Ward said.

“They had an incident where they came in to a call to a scene where there was somebody injured,” he said. “The only thing is, they didn’t realize the person had been shot until they got there and in the house, and the person that shot him was still in there with the gun. Luckily nothing happened. They backed out. They couldn’t help the (injured) person because the person had a gun and pretty much was threatening them with it, so they backed out. They waited until the police got there and of course the guy was arrested and they were able to help the victim.”

First responders with firearms could come in handy in situations like that, Ward said.

Ward said with supporting the bill he wanted to make sure emergency medical service personnel, fire firefighters and rescue squad personnel are protected and well trained before they can carry a weapon.

Ward thinks the bill will pass in the Senate if there is enough time left in the session for it to do so, he said.

Fairmont Police Chief Steve Shine is OK with the bill. He is pro-second ammendment, he said.

Shine would not have supported the bill if it had forced employers to allow an employee to carry a firearm. Because the bill is about allowing authorities over first responders to authorize personnel to carry firearms, he is OK with it, he said.

“I anticipate that the carrying of a firearm may be limited or restricted by many supervising entities due to the fact that those responders routinely have to deal with people with personal contact (exposing an unauthorized person’s access to a firearm),” Shine said. “Many of the people they deal with have altered mental status, are possibly under the influence or any other number of circumstances. Firearms training and certification (qualifying) does not give the training on firearms retention, defensive tactics and other training that goes in to limiting a hostile person attempting to disarm an armed individual. However I understand the want, especially in a rural setting where a police presence may have an extended response time, of emergency response crews to have the ability to protect themselves.”

Attempts to reach Caputo and Longstreth for comment on the bill were unsuccessful.

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